What are the behind-the-scenes secrets to building a powerful brand?
It isn’t just investing in pretty packaging and expensive ad campaigns. It’s the ability to turn your ideal customers into long-term loyalists, generating powerful momentum to fuel your company’s future. In short, to create a tribe.
Let’s take a page from the world of luxury gems. Since 1837, there’s been one preeminent brand that has consistently captured the hearts (and wallets) of buyers worldwide. And this brand has become as ubiquitous as unwrapping a little blue box: Tiffany & Co.
For more than 180 years, the American luxury jeweler has dazzled new generations of devoted brand ambassadors with its iconic collections, all while preserving its extraordinary and exclusive legacy along the way. While innovation and exceptional craftsmanship certainly play a role in the company’s success, Tiffany’s prevailing brand recognition and customer loyalty are the secret ingredients behind its legendary status.
Sure, there are other big names in the diamond field: DeBeers, Cartier, and Neil Lane, just to name a few. But Tiffany has found a way to embed itself into the public consciousness. The company boasts a brand awareness rate of roughly 85% among U.S. jewelry owners and has left an indelible mark on fashion, entertainment, and popular culture.
From Audrey Hepburn’s classic performance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Deep Blue Something’s early 90s alternative rock hit by the same name (and, oh, remember Reese Witherspoon’s engagement in the opening scene of Sweet Home Alabama?) to frequently adorning Hollywood stars like Pharell and Lady Gaga on the red carpet, Tiffany’s diamonds have always adorned a place in pop culture. But imagine, it wasn’t until 2016 that the brand actually worked with celebrities in any advertising campaign capacity.
Vogue’s former Creative Director Grace Coddington, with her own iconic colorful bushel of hair, was tapped to modernize Vogue’s approach to brand campaigns. At the time, she decided to move away from the heavy-handed romance of the brand’s approach and create modern romance, hand-selecting award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, Elle Fanning, and models Christy Turlington and Natalie Westling. Since then, we’ve seen the brand create new alliances with other icons too, including, Beyoncé and JAY-Z, no doubt inspiring millions of social media followers to follow suit, and now counted among the brand’s glamourous fanbase.
But that’s just it: building a successful brand is about so much more than creating a product or service that people desire. It’s about creating a tribe, a loyal following of customers who share common values and believe in your brand. In fact, more than 75% of consumers say they would buy from a brand they feel connected to over a competitor; they also tend to spend more on purchases or repeat buys.
Image via Mason Poole x Tiffany & Co.
What works for the purveyors of diamonds works just as well for plumbers, so long as the brand solves a problem and creates an emotional connection.
For Tiffany, these may be feelings of keeping the love alive or luxury aspirations; for your brand, it may be something entirely different. The key is identifying your ideal customer profile — i.e. your Tribe — to transform loyal customers into burgeoning brand ambassadors.
Scroll down for six ways to unearth your ideal customer, create your tribe, and make your brand stand out and succeed.
Leverage customer loyalty to 10x your business
Here’s the harsh reality: you can’t be everything to everyone. Many founders launch brands with the misguided intention to market their products or services to everybody and, in the process, often wind up diminishing their own brand exposure.
“Customers who love you will market for you more powerfully than you can possibly market yourself.”
— Jeanne Bliss
If you want your customers to consistently engage with your brand, make repeat purchases, or recommend your brand to a friend, prioritizing customer clarity is crucial.
Before we dig into the benefits of finding your ideal customer profile, let’s take a step back and describe exactly what that means. According to Gartner, a well-defined ideal customer profile, or ICP, is the “firmographic, environmental, and behavioral attributes of accounts that are expected to become a company’s most valuable customers.”
It’s a bit of a mouthful, but essentially your ICP is your perfect customer — the highest-value buyers who drive revenue for your business — and then go out into the world and tell their colleagues, friends, or family about how amazing you are.
As five-time chief customer officer and author Jeanne Bliss once pointed out: “Customers who love you will market for you more powerfully than you can possibly market yourself.”
On average, these loyal customers are worth up to 10x as much as their first purchase and often make up the bulk of a brand’s bottom line, while also expanding your customer base. The bigger your tribe > the bigger your brand awareness > the bigger your brand value.
These folks also differ from your target audience, which presents a broader view of your market segments and those you’d like to attract. It’s a nuanced shift in thinking, but understanding your ideal customer profiles’ motivations, pain points, and desires can help you tailor your product or service to meet their unique needs and help you build an effective marketing strategy, power boosting your brand’s performance.
That’s why it’s so critical to find your tribe. When you know who your ideal customers are, your brand can ensure that messaging resonates with audience demand, drive higher conversion rates through targeted marketing campaigns, and improve brand awareness and visibility.
In return, your loyal tribe will be feeling the love and advocate for your brand faster than any good advertising can.
How to identify your ideal customer profile
Unsurprisingly, building a tribe doesn’t happen overnight — even for titan brands well positioned for a gold rush.
Consider the rise of Apple. The consumer electronics giant may seem omnipresent today, but the company struggled to move its first computers off the shelves. Part of the problem was Founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were initially focused on selling personal computers to corporations, competing head-to-head with IBM, and they were losing, badly.
Fast forward some years, and soon the pioneers recognized a prime opportunity to sell their products to “ordinary individuals with ordinary budgets.” The company went public, launched its watershed “1984” television commercial, and effectively captured the home PC market.
Today, the company is cited as having the world’s most devoted fanbase, with many customers pledging loyalty to its entire brand ecosystem. The rest, as they say, is history.
Apple, like so many widely-loved brands, achieved its success in part by identifying its ideal customer profile. As the company refined its products and delivered on the brand’s promise, it didn’t take long for eager customers to line up for their next product launch and help spread the word.
It takes an intentional, strategic approach to develop your ideal customer profile and inspire buyers to advocate for your brand. Will it be easy? Nope. Worth it? Absolutely.
Roughly 92% of individuals trust word-of-mouth recommendations, making it one of the most effective methods to promote your business. If you’re ready to ignite your brand’s full potential, don’t miss out on the benefits of gathering your tribe.
Here’s how to find your tribe:
#1 Analyze your customer base
One of the best ways to discover your biggest fans is to go straight to the source. Take a deep dive into your existing customer base and study the most common characteristics among your loyal customers. Then conduct a round of customer interviews to gain insights into your customers’ pain points, motivations, and core values. You might be surprised at what you find.
At Tiffany & Co., for example, the jeweler’s ICP includes upper middle and upper class women who maintain high standards and believe in true love (as signified by extraordinary diamonds), though they maintain a separate ICP including younger buyers who are interested in keeping up with fashion trends on a limited budget. Embracing both groups ensures that Tiffany can replenish their sales pipeline, while delighting a new generation of fans.
#2 Mine your data sources
Your company’s data sources can reveal valuable insights into your customers’ behaviors and actions. Platforms such as Google Analytics offer a treasure trove of information including users’ demographics, interests, and key behaviors, like how long they engaged with your brand’s content or how they navigated inside of your website. Getting a clearer understanding of your customer data can help you optimize your offerings, driving higher rates of engagement and conversions.
#3 Conduct a competitive analysis
Wondering how you measure up? Evaluating your competitors to uncover their brand position is a surefire way to identify gaps and opportunities inside your own company. You’ll want to take a look at who your peers are targeting, scrutinize their messaging and USP (unique selling proposition), and assess company performance to determine what factors put them over the top (or not). Don’t forget to assess your competitors’ standing across marketing channels: online reviews, social media, product forums, advertising campaigns, website, and more. There’s nothing wrong with a little enemy counterplay, so long as you’re using customer feedback to develop your key brand differentiators anyway.
#4 Identify who your ideal customer is NOT
It’s just as important to determine who is not a great fit as it is to uncover your brand’s ideal customer profile t. One of the fastest ways to burn through a budget is by marketing to an uninspired audience or someone unlikely to actually buy from you. It’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but it will help you avoid wasting precious resources — so you can invest in strategies to win over your tribe.
#5 Create customer personas
Remember the board game Guess Who? Too often, brands are playing with mystery characters. If you really want to take your brand to the next level, you need to pinpoint who your customers truly are. Based on your research and customer interviews, you’ll want to build a customer persona to represent your ideal customer. A customer persona is like building a character; it can include elements such as name, business title, background, family dynamic, financial status, pain points, behaviors, needs, and state of mind. Then it’s up to you to bring that persona to life.
#6 Develop customer journey maps
It’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where to start. Customer journey maps are a powerful tool to help you enhance your understanding of ideal customers and guide them to your products and solutions. In the same way maps help navigators visualize destination points on a trip, customer journey maps illustrate the various touchpoints and experiences customers have while interacting with your brand. By mapping out the buyer journey, you can quickly identify obstacles and create a more satisfying customer experience. You can also use maps to cross-sell or upsell, leading to increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Unearthing your tribe can often feel like digging for a diamond in the rough (because it is!). It requires hard work to hold alignment with your brand values and meet your audience where they are. But identifying your ideal customer – and creating long-term brand strategies to keep their loyalty alive – is key to unlocking your brand’s full potential. By taking care of your tribe and proving that you’re more than a product, you’re a promise, and you’ll increase your brand’s value and reap the rewards long-term.